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Climate change is bigger than the internet

Climate change will have a bigger impact on your family and friends and all of humanity than the Internet has had. This is from “Climate Change” by Joseph Romm. The scariest book I have ever read. Scarier than “Future crimes“. Scarier than “Overconnected“. This is existential and it involves our children.

We are near tipping point

At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago, CO2 levels in the atmosphere were approximately 280 parts per million (ppm). Emissions today are six times higher than they were in 1950. Moreover, CO2 levels have now hit 400 parts per million. As a result, the Earth has warmed 1.5°F (0.85°C) since 1900. Most of this warming, approximately 1°F, has occurred only since 1970.

The delay effect

This is important. With climate change, there is a delay effect. If CO2 levels stopped rising now, temperatures would keep rising for another few decades, albeit slowly. Put another way, the warming that we have had to date is due to CO2 levels from last century. It also has an amplifier effect. Which means the changes will become exponential, applying Moore’s law to climate change effects. The dark or negative version of Moore’s law.

Some examples:

  • In January 2010, the U.S. Southwest from California to Arizona was slammed by “The most powerful low-pressure system in 140 years of record keeping.
  • That summer, Russia was hit by the most lethal heat wave in human history, killing at least 55,000 people. Russia lost 40% of its wheat crop and banned grain exports for 18 months, which contributed to soaring food prices globally.
  • In 2010, both Columbia and Australia saw their worst floods in history, driven by record rainfall.
  • In October 2010, Minnesota saw the strongest U.S. storm ever recorded that was not a coastal storm such as a hurricane. The superstorm generated 67 tornadoes over a period of 4 days.
  • In 2010, the Amazon experienced its second 100-year drought in 5 years,

On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy devastated the Northeastern United States, killing more than 100 people, destroying entire communities, and inflicting more than $70 billion in damages.

Last time 

The last time the Earth’s atmosphere was at 400 ppm of CO2 was a few million years ago, long before Homo sapiens roamed the Earth. Back then sea level was some 15–25 meters (50–80 feet) above modern levels. A 2009 analysis in Science found that when CO2 levels were approximately 400 ppm 15 to 20 million years ago, the Earth was 5°F to 10°F warmer globally and seas were also 75 to 120 feet higher.

The future

In future, hot summers occur twice as often as they did, and cool summers occur far less often than they did. Dangerous heat waves will see a 50-fold increase. By the middle of this century. Even the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest summers of the past 50 years. By 2050, the United States will see wildfires twice as destructive as today, and some 20 million acres a year will burn. Storms will be bigger. Tropical diseases will spread. Fresh water will become more scarce. Feeding the global population will become very difficult, and we will have an increase in civic unrest. That is the good news.


Mad Max and Waterworld

If we go over the 4 degrees tipping point we are facing widespread drought and Dust-Bowlification, mass species loss on land (70% of all animal and plant life) and sea (90% of all marine life), increase in the most extreme type of weather events globally (including heat waves and superstorms), sea-level rise much greater than 6 feet by century’s end with seas rising to a foot a decade after that.

The Great Dying

It is called the “The Great Dying”. It will make our planet nearly uninhabitable. Armageddon. A combination of Mad Max and Water World. Possibly within the next 50-60 years. That is within the lifetime of our children.

What we need to do

To have a significant chance—greater than 50%—of keeping total warming below 2°C, we need to cut the emissions of carbon dioxide and other major GHG pollutants by more than 50% by mid-century, which in turn means that global GHG emissions must peak within a decade or so and start a rapid decline. That means that a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80% of current coal reserves should remain unused from 2010 to 2050.

Cost benefit analysis

It is not all bad news several studies that quantified total outcomes found benefit-cost ratios as high as 4:1 when health and well-being impacts were included, with health benefits representing up to 75% of overall benefits.

Bigger than the internet

That means we need to get cracking. Fast. It is mitigation, adaptation or suffering. It will also save us 830 trillion Euro (if you want another economic argument, although global annihilation should be a strong enough incentive).

And that is why climate change is bigger than the internet. You don’t need the internet anymore when you are fighting for survival.

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